A husband and wife were among  newly ordained Catholic bishops in Ardmore, PA, Saturday December 21, 2013.  This is  probably the first time in the history of Christianity, that a husband and wife were ordained bishops together and given a common mission.  Bishop William Manseau, D.Min., who leads the Ecumenical Catholic Diocese of America (ECDA) was the principal consecrator.  He said, “Today, the feast day of St. Thomas the Apostle (Dec. 21), is an appropriate day to initiate the missionary call of these 5 modern day apostles.  They are to be spirit filled leaders, building bridges of faith, hope and love in a divided and doubting world. “


Newly ordained Bishop Joseph Catrambone of Gaithersburg, MD leads initiatives to assist children in Central America and soon in Africa.  Newly ordained Bishop Bernard Callahan of Lansdowne, PA is on the executive board of the National Council of Churches. Newly Ordained Bishops Virginia and Robert Graf are Southern Regional Vice-Presidents of the 400 member Federation of Christian Ministries.   Father Michael Giansiracusa Rector of St Mary’s Episcopal Church in Ardmore where the ordination took place said, “Our community welcomes these fellow Christian Apostles to our worship center.   Interfaith hospitality and missionary outreach has been a part of our 125 year history since the beginning.”


Bishop Manseau quoted Roman Catholic canon law that the “salvation of souls” is the highest law (canon1752) as he addressed those to be ordained and their friends and supporters.  He said that the Ecumenical Catholic Diocese of America (ECDA)is praying for the Holy Spirit to convince the Roman Catholic Hierarchy  to meet the needs of God’s people for Married and Women leaders in the roles of deacons, priests and bishops.”


The ordaining bishops trace their apostolic succession back to the same apostolic roots as Pope Francis, Pope Benedict XVI, Pope John Paul II, Pope Paul VI and so on. Pope Paul VI ordained the bishop who ordained Archbishop Brennan, bishop emeritus of the ECDA.  Archbishop Brennan ordained Bishop Manseau in 2011, and is also one of the co-consecrators of today’s service.   The other co-consecrator was Bishop Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger of Austria, who was the leader of the first Roman Catholic Women’s ordination in Europe in 2002.  She was ordained a bishop by an active Roman Catholic bishop whose identity is being kept secret while he still lives.


Bishop Manseau said “Today we write a new page in the history of Christianity.  By ordaining a husband and wife together, we are asking God’s Spirit to bless all married couples with their ministry.  The church has not adequately supported marriage and married spirituality.  This is a step forward.”  Robert and Virginia initiated a peer to peer couples group and house church with a mixture of married and single persons.  Bishop Manseau, the founder of Emmaus Institute counselling service in New Hampshire runs a program called “The Power of Two” for couples.  He continued saying that we also want to bring healing and spiritual regeneration to people hurting from broken marriages.


Robert and Virginia will share their Episcopal responsibility together for the Southern region of the ECDA.  Bishop Manseau said: “Their joint decision-making will model a new approach to Christian Unity.  No two people ever fully agree on everything, but when love is primary, differences become secondary.  Among Christians with differences, we need to emphasize love for one another, and find ways to let our differences enrich one another instead of dividing one another.”


The ECDA  has its roots in the Society of Priests for a Free Ministry which was founded by married Roman Catholic priests in 1968 in St. Louis, Missouri. The ECDA was established as a diocese in 1981 in New York and as a national diocese in 1984. The ECDA is part of St. Barnabas Mission, a 501c3 church organization founded in 1983 by Joseph Alphonsus Fradale and Peter Paul Brennan, (now Archbishop) as an ecumenical family of laity and clergy whose main purpose is “to radiate Christ to the world.”  It was intended by its founders to be an “outreach to the needy of the world.”  It was meant to be an “umbrella that provides spiritual strength for all concerned and provides a sense of cohesion to the many individual efforts.”

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